Sunday, January 31, 2016

Top 5 Worst Films Of 2015

Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, it just sort of happens through a set of circumstances and mismanagement at some level. But that doesn't mean there aren't victims who are assaulted by their awfulness and while sometimes we can shrug off a bad film there are those that effect us so deeply that we just can't shake that sour taste they leave in our mouths. Some may take the high road and let bygones be bygones but someone has to remind the masses just how much these particular films not only let us down but more importantly wasted our collective time and energy. So if you are turned off by negativity then do me and yourself a favor and skip this list all together but if you are looking for some choice words to help mend your soul then by all means continue on.


San Andreas

I like Dwayne Johnson as an actor. He is one of the most charismatic leading male actors we have today which makes it sad when his natural charms are wasted on a film as painfully bad as this disaster (no pun intended). Watching San Andreas it is difficult to see any reason for its existence other than to give a special effects company something to do while waiting for something more meaningful to come through. The boredom infused into the audience is compounded by one of the most baffling depictions of a rescue worker in all of cinema who steals valuable resources from his work to save his own family leaving who knows how many civilians waiting for aid that will never come because of his selfish actions. Add some really poor effects work and a wafer thin story and you have the building blocks for a film that is a bigger disaster than the one it tries to depict.


Terminator Genisys

Starting with the grammatically incorrect title, this movie is a mess from top to bottom. Many were upset when trailers for it gave away a major plot twist but unsuspecting audiences had no idea that would be the least of their problems going into the latest Terminator film. While the film isn't without its laughable charms there is just no getting over how hopelessly convoluted all the time travel hi-jinks are. After about the fourth time our characters travel through time it becomes more than evident that each time the writer reached a dead end in the script that made no sense their band-aid was to have everyone time travel so that everything would be OK again. None of that is even touching on how much of a slap in the face the film is to the vastly superior first and second films in the franchise in how it unflinchingly destroys every timeline and story arc they worked so hard to establish. Here is hoping this franchise has seen the end of its product line. It's not offensively bad but man does it try.


Fantastic Four

The biggest surprise for many isn't that Fantastic Four appears in a "worst of the year" list but more to the point that it isn't number one. While it became extremely popular to hate on the film upon its release the truth of the matter is that it wasn't the worst thing released in theaters this year...but it was close. While it will be some time before we can sift through the rubble and learn the true story behind this debacle it is easy to determine that whomever is responsible needs to be exiled from Hollywood forever. Director Josh Trank was hot off the heels of his successful debut with Chronicle and he seemed like a perfect fit to reboot the franchise after the last two FF films failed but alas it was never meant to be. Between some odd decisions in the editing room and an unfocused script, it's safe to say that there was no salvaging this one no matter how hard they tried. As they say, one, two, three strikes your out.



In a year where we had the pleasant surprise that was the live action Cinderella film, this live action Peter Pan origin story (was anybody really asking for that?) stands in stark contrast to that film's many successes. Even though it isn't at number one there isn't another film this year that was as misguided than Pan. The acting was off the mark across the board with Garrett Hedlund's cartoonish approach to Captain Hook being the winner for the worst performance by any actor this year. The special effects were simply atrocious with the crowning achievement of the atrocity being every single time we got a super close up of digital Peter Pan which made the kids from The Polar Express seem life-like in comparison. As for Hugh Jackman...well, he wasn't horrible but in this sort of company even a turd would look like a diamond. And what was with the music selection? Who was this movie made for?


The Cobbler

OK, full disclosure. I did not actually finish watching The Cobbler. Now before you lambaste me for picking a film I had not actually finished just let me say that I tried, I really tried to finish watching the latest offense against humanity by Adam Sandler. Here is the thing though, on paper the idea behind The Cobbler holds some potential for a thoughtful examination about people and their differences but as expected in the hands of Sandler any sort of nuance is replaced with slapstick comedy. There was a point in the first few minutes of The Cobbler where I thought that perhaps critics just didn't get what the film was about but once Sandler slips on those shoes it becomes clear as day that the project was doomed the second he became part of it. It may not have as extensive a list of problems that other films on this list do but hey, at least I finished those ones.

Most Disappointing Films of 2015
(Films that I was looking forward to that sadly let me down)

Taken 3

No other film franchise has taken such a nose dive as Taken. What started out as a kick ass revenge flick was transformed into a neutered mess with Taken 2 and now with Taken 3 they even forgot that there movie was called Taken in the first place. Don't believe me? How about when Liam Neeson discovers that someone has been taken but instead of saying that particular word says they have been abducted...what? Aside from the fact that Neeson spends the majority of the film running AWAY from the police and NEVER chasing the bad guys, the actual abduction takes place off screen and is over before Neeson even knows anyone was taken making his half assed pursuit of the bad guys almost inconsequential and completely void of tension since the audience and characters already know the person that was taken is actually (spoiler alert)....dead.

This should have been one of the biggest films of the year but despite taking in a ton of cash (which hasn't been an accurate way to gauge a film's value for a very long time) no one really seemed to care. You can sum up the film's many failures simply by saying two words...Part Two. Never has a franchise been so bastardized by splitting the final chapter into two sub chapters as the final chapter for The Hunger Games. After the energy and momentum had been sucked out by Mockingjay Part 1 my indifference was only compounded by the uneven Part 2 which suffered from a rather uneventful finale. This was one of the biggest stumbles for such a huge film franchise concluding in film history. 

While The Hunger Games may have ended poorly it's fans at the very least still cared about it. It was kind of sad when this final Paranormal Activity came out and almost nobody noticed or really cared which is kind of shocking when you think back to how huge the first three films in the franchise were. If it at least had a strong final chapter it wouldn't have mattered if nobody cared anymore but that wasn't the case. While PA: The Ghost Dimension is far from the worst entry in the long running horror franchise (that honor still goes to PA4) it did little to remind fans why they liked it in the first place. At least it wrapped up the highly convoluted story in a somewhat satisfying way.

No other film in 2015 caused as much inner conflict in me than Goosebumps. The building blocks were there, a revered collection of children's scary bedtime stories, a cast of mostly likable kids and even a halfway enjoyable performance by Jack Black (odd accent aside) but the execution was just baffling at times. Forgetting the heaping amount of plotholes and coincidences that take place the basic story was just sort of a mess. It was as if someone saw Gremlins and The Goonies (two great pieces of inspiration by the way) and mixed them together while also changing everything that made them the classics they were. Goosebumps is the poster child for how NOT to write a screenplay. It has its charms but this overstuffed turkey should have been an instant classic.

I love the original National Lampoon's Vacation. It is still one of the best depictions of the stereotypical American family on vacation films of all time. The only problem is that it is horribly dated and new audiences just aren't able to relate to it. So a remake (something I tend to loathe) seemed like a good idea but this wasn't how to do it. All the clever jabs and lampooning of the American family unit were replaced by poop jokes and crude humor, both of which are fine in any other movie not carrying the Vacation namesake. The cast was good and even the idea of going back to Wally World was sort of inspired but it just isn't what it should have been. If this didn't have the name "Vacation" attached to it it would just be another nameless and forgotten comedy to clutter up the discount bin at Wal-Mart where this is sadly destined to end up.

Brad Bird's MI: Ghost Protocol made my top 11 of the year when it was released as it represented everything that a Mission Impossible movie should be, great action, interesting story, lots of clever humor and gadgets along with some truly impressive set pieces. Rogue Nation is at the complete opposite end of that spectrum with repetitive action, a bland retread story, boring humor and some surprisingly dull set pieces. The actors are all game and still show a lot of enthusiasm but this is a clear cut chase of a film trying to recycle too many of the same tricks we have seen in each of the other films and not done nearly as good. When you can tell well in advance which character Tom Cruise will eventually disguise himself as (here's a hint, pay attention to the size of each actor's nose) well before you are supposed to then it is time for an overhaul.

Nothing is more depressing than seeing a great concept destroyed by poor execution. Much like The Cobbler's intriguing premise, Adam Sandler once again proves why he should just retire already. Between his lack of enthusiasm and his lack of respect for his long time fans, Sandler has delivered one cinematic gut punch after another. The only reason Pixels gets a small pass is because everyone else around him seems to actually be having a good time with the material. You can even almost forgive it for its atrocious depiction of videogames and the people who play them because of awesome it is just seeing Pac Man chomp his way through the streets of New York City but making Kevin James the President of the United States is enough of a sin that any redeeming qualities are rendered moot.

Let's call this one a decent attempt at taking a cool idea and turning it into a feature length film. In my original review I stated that it would have made an amazing short film and I still believe that. The first half has a lot of great stuff but the second half when Riley suddenly becomes a lying, conniving thief who wants to run away from home simply because her emotions got lost in her head is sending the wrong message. When kids feel volatile tendencies it isn't because little people in their head got lost in imagination land, it's because there are some real mental issues. Kids just don't suddenly go crazy like this. People who saw a sweet and moving film are entitled to their opinion but all I could see was another missed opportunity from what used to be the premiere animation studio.

I am almost at a loss for words when trying to articulate just how off the rails this misguided sequel went. If it were a simple cash grab it would make sense but there was something more going on here. Seth MacFarlane seemed to genuinely believe he made a funny movie. While not as devoid of all humor like his dismal Million Ways To Die In The West, Ted 2 is nonetheless a warning to the man behind the bear that he really needs to try something that is out of his comfort zone because he has clearly lost whatever magic was there for the first Ted. I can't think of another film this year that shocked me by its ineptitude as much as Ted 2. 

As if we needed another reason to hate remakes, along comes the Poltergeist remake. Aside from being slightly dated, the original film holds up really well which made the prospect of having it remade seem dubious at best. Not even the solid cast they assembled, which included Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie Dewitt and Jared Harris, were capable of making this update to the 80's classic work. It is easy to tell just how difficult it was to capture that same magic as the original when you see how much this update struggles in areas that felt natural and organic in the original. It wasn't scary, it wasn't fun, it wasn't Poltergeist.

I have come to accept that perhaps Tomorrowland just wasn't for me. I was sold on the film shown in that original trailer and that clearly wasn't the movie that Brad Bird made, for better or worse. Call it false advertising or purposeful misdirection, either way you slice it if you wanted to see the movie advertised you were likely left out to dry. The film that we got isn't bad per say but it just felt like a broken promise made by one of my favorite modern day filmmakers who up until this travesty could do no wrong in my eyes. Watching Tomorrowland (for me) is the equivalent of watching your dreams shrivel up and die.

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